If we repeat the same themes or actions as sin, we can be said to take part in durable sin. Durable sin lasts for generations, as does most sin, but it is specific, also, to some portion of the culture. Black slavery was not black sin, it was white sin (except where it was practiced by blacks on blacks; unusual in terms of opportunity but not unheard of); it lasted for centuries and was particularly hard on one segment of society. This is durable sin.
And, American slavery is only one illustration of durable sin. I introduce the concept of durable sin to mention, again, the prophetic word. Prophets confront durable sin.
In a meeting recently, a wonderful lady preacher asked me this question.
“What is a prophetic message?”
“A prophetic message is culturally unacceptable,” was my answer.
This seemed to puzzle the room of religious professionals. You can understand how it would be difficult for religious professionals, who depend upon the good will of others for their living and for their personal self-esteem.
So, naturally, there came the next question.
“What does a prophetic message sound like?”
I started to answer in kind. A prophetic message can be loud, but a prophetess need not raise her voice. A prophetic message can predict one’s future if a certain course is followed, so it must at least pretend to know the possible reply of God to a chosen course of action. God hates sin, not one over another, though people often attribute the special wrath of God to those things that most offend us, and, one can say, if God is consistent, then certain actions have to bring about specific outcomes.
Instead of the text book definition, from a text no one reads anymore, anyway, I offered this story.
There were two men, a Have and a Have-Not. The Have defined himself by his shelter, his food, his care and the Have- Not was defined by his need. The Have-Not sat every day at the front door of the Have for he had no house of his own. The Have-Not wanted crumbs from the Have’s table but, so far from recognition was he, the only relief he had was when the dogs came and licked his sores.
Please note, the sin of the Have was this specific, particular thing. The Have did not recognize the Have-Not. If the Have approached the Have-Not at all, it was to brush by him on his way to the next Killer Deal.
God, on the other had, thinks the Have-Not should be recognized as human. God thinks the Have-Not has the right to housing, food and medical care (Remember the dogs that licked his sores? That was one bad HMO, friends.). God thinks the Have is responsible to care for the Have-Not, which begins with recognition.
Here is the tricky part for the Have-Nots. Once a Have helps a Have-Not have, the Have-Not becomes a Have. We are Haves if we Have shelter, food and care. The moment we get the Haves, we become responsible for the other Have-Nots. We Have to Recognize the Have-Nots.
Why? Well, according to Jesus, the Righteous Man who is a Have risks Eternal Torment if he will not recognize the Have-Not. If Jesus is right, and I am going with Him, earthly riches are a load that can crush you right down to Hell if you do not recognize the Have-Not on your way through life.
The Have and the Have-Not each died. The world, of course, mourned the death of the profit producing Have and sighed in relief at the death of the Have-Not. One more name off the Dole. You know how they are, after all.
The Have-Not went into Heaven, not because he was poor but because poverty on earth does not preclude the possibility of Heaven, any more than the presence of riches on earth guarantees Heaven later. The Have went into Hell. Once he got acclimated to his surroundings he started to look for a way out, right now and forever.
The Have looked up. He saw the Have-Not in Heaven, near another Have named Abraham. The tormented Have called out to Abraham, Have to Have. He tried to make a deal whereby Lazarus, the Have-Not, whom he still did not address directly, would either bring him water to relieve his suffering, or, failing that, Lazarus would leave Heaven to go warn the family of the Have about their eternal destiny.
All of that, that is, according to Jesus. Meek, mild, malleable Jesus, who changes His ways according to the cultures and climes where we meet Him. He shifts His course according to our perception of Him.
Or, really, does He?
Jesus does not seem to accommodate Himself to His audience. His message alternates between challenging and galling but He is all about human repentance; change to become a Disciple and then go make Disciples. Grace for the Sinner, all men Sinners in need of grace, regardless of our status, position, privilege.
Simply put, Jesus requires us to recognize the Have-Not at our front door or risk our eternal soul. Grace does not exclude us from judgement, it just rescues us as we rescue the Have-Not in front of us.
I know, I know, I know. For decades the preachers have told you just to believe certain propositions, pray a prayer, get into church and it will all come out fine for you.
Jesus has every chance to say those things, to make His faith transactional, but He ties His Faith to sacrifice, service, solace.
So, this is what a prophetic message sounds like. If you need a specific sound for it, just read the words from this screen aloud. Give you voice to the voice of Jesus, so that the Message of Jesus gets repeated. This is the end of durable sin and the certain salvation of your soul.